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Phase 1 renovations nearly complete at St. Mary's Catholic Church

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A new roof catches the eye at  St. Mary's Catholic Church on Rolph Street.

But there's a lot more renovations going on.

"We're excited," said Father Tom Ferrera, expecting the congregation will move back into the church around the end of the month.

During the renovation period, which started in June, St. Mary's set up a chapel in the gymnasium of Father Langan Parish Centre, formerly St. Mary's School.

"It's been a little home away from home for us," said Ferrera. "We've been fortunate to have a temporary chapel while this has been happening. It made it possible for them to get all the work done without us getting in the way."

"It's small and intimate, it's much different than church," said Colleen Hanley, pastoral minister. "It's been nice to be there and still have our eyes on the church, and know that we're going to move back at the end of month. In time for Christmas... that'll be nice."

The original church structure was built in 1932, and an addition was made in 1958.

"This is the next big construction renovation," said Hanley.

"That's why people responded so well to it," Ferrera. "They saw the need for it. We haven't done anything to the building since 1958."

"Especially outside," Hanley nodded.

"There was a need for it," said Ferrera. "We had to decide what we were going to do because the roof needed to be replaced and accessibility was an issue. I think people felt the church, which has played a prominent role in town for many years, should be prominent."

St. Mary's is not alone in doing renovations, he said, noting work being done at St. John's, and several new churches that have been built in town over the past 10-20 years.

"The people of Tillsonburg have a strong desire to be part of a faith community. People think it's a worthwhile investment, in my opinion."

A campaign last year raised the majority of the $2.3 million, the process to plan it took years.

"We knew it was a big project, that's for sure," said Hanley.

ACCESSIBILITY

"We're putting a big emphasis on accessibility," said Ferrera. "We're going to build an addition with an elevator in it. That's so important these days. We're about that as well."

Phase 1 included removal of concrete buttresses and extension of the roof, new insulation, and new composite slate shingles, replacement of flat roofing, reinforcement of the tower roof structure, new copper roofing on the bell tower, new gutters, downspouts, lightning protection, new front stairs, new concrete sidewalk at the front... and more.

The interior saw restoration and repair of the organ, repair of water damaged plaster areas, painting side aisle walks, ceilings, new pendant light fixtures, new flooring around the altar, restoration of the shrine area... and more.

Phase 2, which has begun and will continue into the winter, includes items such as the addition with elevator, barrier free washroom and landscaped boulevard around the church, as well as new sidewalks, curbs and asphalt parking.

"The elevator won't be available yet when we're back in the church, but it will come," Hanley smiled.

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